Every day we’re thankful for the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933 and lifted the constitutional ban on the production and sale of alcohol in the U.S. It’s unfathomable to think that for 13 years, it was illegal to make and buy booze in this country. Although we cheekily throw around the term “long national nightmare” today, Prohibition very much was a long national nightmare back then, not just for all the people in the alcohol industry who lost their jobs, but also for anyone who liked to get their legal party on.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and we’re in a safe space, here’s the real truth: Prohibition was dope.
After America officially went dry in 1920, tons of speakeasies started popping up all over the country. These illegal booze saloons served cheap liquor to thirsty patrons both rich and poor, and served as the sites for the kind of epic parties where dapper men in suits and flapper women in skirts danced all night to the jazzy sounds of the roaring twenties until the police or the sun showed up—whichever came first.
The scene was fashionable, fun, and dangerous. That’s why even though you can drink anywhere you damn well please these days, it’s never quite as cool as when there’s a little secrecy involved. So here’s everything you need to convert your basement into an epic speakeasy for one magical night. Just don’t let the cops find out. And hey, if you don’t feel like throwing a party and would rather go to one, grab tickets to Playboy x Hop’s Speakeasy Night.
Your home bar needs an upgrade anyway, so use this as an opportunity to expand your arsenal beyond boring pint glasses. Start with these gorgeously handcrafted, dishwasher-safe double old-fashioned glasses ($79.95 for a set of 4, williams-sonoma.com) and add another set of Schott Zwiesel’s crystal whiskey cocktail glasses ($60 for 6, amazon.com).
Every mixologist needs a good set of tools, so load up with this six-piece leather and stainless steel set that includes a shaker, peg measurer, tongs, and an ice bucket ($125, amazon.com). Keep the liquor flowing with this six-bottle bar caddy that pours 1-oz. shots ($56, amazon.com) and don’t forget the most important ingredient in any classic cocktail: bitters. Snag this set of six from Fee Brothers that includes orange, peach, lemon, and mint flavors to add a subtle kick to any libation ($42, amazon.com).
You run the risk of looking like you’re at Halloween party if you take the Jay Gatsby getup too far. When it comes to crafting your outfit for the night, think tasteful, not tacky. (In other words, steer clear of the extreme pinstripes.) Suit jackets with peak lapels were popular in the 20s; we like this tan, two-button trim-fit from Nordstrom Rack ($250, nordstrom rack.com).
Pair it with a grey tweed vest like this one from Brooks Brothers ($118, brooksbrothers.com) and a bow tie that pops, like this red chambray from the Tie Bar ($19, thetiebar.com). Add brown wingtip Oxfords ($50, amazon.com) and a felt fedora hat ($28, amazon.com) to complete your look. Bonus: You can rock this outfit at a summer wedding without looking like you’re about to rob a bank.
If you want to pull off a truly authentic party, we suggest hiring a live jazz combo and paying them in bottomless Negronis. The next best thing is playing your tunes from a record player—albeit an impressively modern one. Go with the Teac LP-P1000 all-in-one turntable speaker system ($245, amazon.com), which plays records at three speeds, packs two 25-watt speakers that fill the room with power, and has a CD player, aux input, and bluetooth connectivity if your crowd insists on hearing Kendrick Lamar in between jams by Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton.
Want to get a little more vintage? Grab this badass gramophone for your iPhone from Restoration Hardware ($249, restorationhardware.com). Plug your cell into the walnut dock and the horn will amplify your retro Spotify playlists, sans electricity. Plus, it makes a killer living room conversation piece when you’re not throwing an illegal bash downstairs.
Gambling was a big hallmark of the Prohibition era, so your speakeasy isn’t complete without a makeshift basement casino. Set up this pro-style, 10-player poker table with deluxe speed dealing cloth ($486, amazon.com) for some no-limit hold’em, but don’t forget to stock up on decks of cards ($17 for a 12-pack, amazon.com), Monte Carlo clay poker chips ($90 for a 500-piece set, amazon.com), and this automatic shuffler that jumbles six decks in a matter of seconds ($12.42, amazon.com). Ante up.
Save the craft beer for another time. The hooch was the whole point of speakeasies in the first place, and your great-great-grandparents would laugh you out of the joint if you threw a party and served Sierra Nevada Pale Ales. Stock up on classier spirits that suit the occasion and start with these three simple cocktails.
•.75 oz. Campari Directions Mix together. Created by Created by Pam Wiznitzer and available at Seamstress NYC.
• 1.5 oz. Gin
• Top with San Pellegrino Blood Orange
Mix together. Created by Created by Pam Wiznitzer and available at Seamstress NYC.
• 1.5 parts elit Vodka Directions Shake, strain over fresh ice. Top with a small amount of club soda. Garnish with a mint bouquet. Created by Nola Woodall at NYC’s Sweetwater Social.
• .5 part Combier Pamplemousse Rose
• 1 part Clarified Coconut Water
• Mister Bitters Pink Grapefruit and Agave Bitters
Shake, strain over fresh ice. Top with a small amount of club soda. Garnish with a mint bouquet. Created by Nola Woodall at NYC’s Sweetwater Social.
• 1 oz. Campari Directions Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir briskly until just cold. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist, expressed and inserted. Top with a small amount of club soda. Garnish with a mint bouquet. Created by Joaquín Simó and available at NYC’s Pouring Ribbons.
• 1 oz. Smith & Cross Jamaican rum
• 1 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir briskly until just cold. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist, expressed and inserted. Top with a small amount of club soda. Garnish with a mint bouquet. Created by Joaquín Simó and available at NYC’s Pouring Ribbons.